Mono White Aggro Deck Guide
Who am I?
My name is Mark Gabriele, and I am an SCG Tour Grinder and avid Arena player. My absolute favorite decks in Standard are all flavors of Mono-Colored aggro decks. I have been racing up the ladder with Hoshi Yuki’s Red Bull-winning Mono White deck, as well as 4-0ing an SCG Qualifier with it. If you have any questions about the deck, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Twitter at @gabriele_mark!
Why play Mono White?
The color white has been maligned over the past year (5 years? 27 years?) as being the worst color in Magic by a substantial margin. Why on Earth, then, would we want to play ONLY white cards? The answer to this question has a couple different branches, and actually gives us some insight into why white cards are powered down right now.
- Aether Gust and Mystical Dispute – It might be a bit odd, but two of the primary reasons to play Mono White are blue cards. The best way to attack Temur Rec, historically, has been by aggroing them out; part of the reason that Temur has become so oppressive is because Aether Gust, which is good in the mirror and against various Uro decks, also happens to be excellent against the popular aggro decks of the format. This means that Gust has been moved to the main – why would you not want it in the maindeck if it’s good against everyone? – and has made virtually every match-up winnable preboard for Temur. Gust is good enough that the dial Temur Rec players usually adjust for how much they want to beat aggro is simply “How many Gusts do I play in my maindeck?”. Gust helps enough against aggro that the deck can afford to start playing Mystical Disputes in the main for the blue mirrors, which are the match-ups that are on the forefront of Temur players’ minds. This has forced all the other blue decks to play Gust and Dispute in the main as well, or risk being behind against the format’s most popular deck in game one. What do Aether Gust and Mystical Dispute have in common? Well, they’re both unplayably bad against Mono White Aggro! This leaves a small window of opportunity for Mono White to dominate the meta.
- Recent printings – Ikoria and M21 have brought Selfless Savior, Garrison Cat, Seasoned Hallowblade, Glorious Anthem, and Basri’s Solidarity to Mono White. What this means is that 1) You don’t need to play the creatures with the highest stats anymore, because you can lean on your anthems to make them threatening, and 2) Removal/Sweepers aren’t even that good against you. After playing a lot of matches with this deck, I’m really not even scared of Storm’s Wrath or Shatter the Sky; I’m scared of the SECOND Storm’s Wrath or Shatter the Sky. What this means is that, once again, the dials that Temur/Bant players want to adjust against you don’t really even work. Adding removal and sweepers is very, very far from a sure way to beat this deck. This all adds up to meaning that you are very, very favored against Temur Rec and its compadres.
- Venerated Loxodon – Go read this card again, because clearly nobody at R&D did before they printed it. This card is beyond messed up. In a vacuum, this is one of the top 5 cards in standard, probably top 3, and in almost any context other than the current one, it would be a dominant force in the format. This brings me to the likely reason why the other white aggro cards are so weak right now: if they were at a normal power level, Loxodon would ensure that white would be everywhere, like it was in late 2018. (Side note: this is a good lesson in what R&D looks at when considering how to balance formats, because they can’t print cards in a vacuum – when you print something like Llanowar Elves, you have to make the green three-drops worse). White is currently atoning for how good it was 2 years ago, and just how broken our elephant friend is. If you haven’t played this card before, I highly suggest giving it a shot.
- It’s just fun: There is something incredibly satisfying about bashing your opponent’s face in, ESPECIALLY the Rec players. If you want an indication of how sweet this deck is, one of the Temur players I beat in the 8 PM SCG qualifier immediately dropped and played this list in the 10 PM qualifier.
Hunted Witness/Garrison Cat/Selfless Savior – Just a pile of one mana 1/1s that are good against removal. Selfless Savior isn’t at its best here, because it really shines when the value of your creatures greatly diverges: you want to be sacrificing a 1/1 Savior to rescue a 7/7 Stonecoil Serpent, not a 3/3 Savior to rescue a 4/4 Loxodon. Even so, it’s still good enough against sweepers to warrant its spot, and makes some combats messy for your opponents. Hunted Witness is slightly better than Garrison Cat, because the token it creates has Lifelink.
Seasoned Hallowblade – This card is really solid, and while it’s not better than Adanto Vanguard, it’s close. There’s a bit of tension between this card and Castle Ardenvale, because you want to save extra lands in hand to keep your Hallowblade safe, but that keeps you off of the lands necessary to make extra 1/1s. When in doubt, I like to save the lands in my hand, as I’ve found it incredibly rare that the 1/1s from Castle are actually relevant.
Giant Killer – This card doesn’t have any removal protection, but gets a pass because it’s just very good. Because your cards are naturally very small, it’s easy to get boxed out of combat in early turns by a Bonecrusher Giant or Nightpack Ambusher, and both halves of Giant Killer help you punch through those. Choosing when to play out and when to hold Giant Killer is one of the harder parts of the deck, but it’s usually correct to just play it out, since at worst it can tap their most threatening creature.
Raise the Alarm – This card works really, really well with Loxodon, and is still good when you just curve it into a couple anthems. While it is technically an instant, against decks that may have counters like Negate or Mystical Dispute in their maindeck, I just fire it off while they’re tapped out. If that’s on my own main phase, then so be it.
Basri’s Solidarity, Glorious Anthem, Unbreakable Formation: Recent printings have allowed this deck to reach a critical mass of Anthem effects, including the OG itself. They all have their own perks, and this deck plays a LOT of them, so don’t be afraid to board one or two out for more action.
4 Castle Ardenvale, 17 Plains – 21 lands seems like the correct number to me. 4 Castles has kind of taken over as the default in white aggro lists, because they’re seen as free, but I wouldn’t be surprised if 18 Plains and 3 Castles turned out to be correct. The reason is because you aren’t out-grinding anyone anymore – if the game goes past turn 6, you are going to lose to Uro, Ugin, Nissa, a big Explosion, or any number of other things you can never beat in a million years. You don’t really play removal, so you’re not going to be answering all their threats; you’re going to be trying to kill them before those threats matter. In over 100 matches, I believe that Castle Ardenvale has been responsible for exactly one game win for me. It might just be better to ensure that you don’t have to mulligan hands where the only lands are two Castles, but that’s very rare too so this is all very marginal.
Bounty Agent – This card is fine, but not terribly exciting. I think it’s mostly there for Green match-ups, where it can take out Questing Beast and The Great Henge. Cards like Jolrael out of Bant can be annoying, but I’ve found it’s better to try to outsize the Cat tokens than spend a turn and a card trying to kill Jolrael. The biggest thing that Bounty Agent has going for it is that it’s a 2/2 vigilance for two mana, so it’s not throwing too big a wrench in your gameplan to bring it in. Don’t bring it in with the intention of killing a reanimated Uro, because if the game is at the point where they have reanimated an Uro, you either kill them on your next attack step or you lose.
Fight as One and Unbreakable Formation – These cards are pretty different, but I’m lumping them in together because they both only get boarded in when you’re worried about decks with a pile of sweepers (neither of these cards are good against one-for-one removal). They don’t come in often, because the deck has so much natural sweeper insulation, but they’re there if the need arises.
Gideon Blackblade – I really, really wish this card was better. A three mana card that doesn’t immediately affect the board needs to have a huge impact when you untap with it, and Gideon just doesn’t do enough most of the time. It’s fine against decks that you think won’t have any answer to it and won’t be able to pressure it, but those match-ups are getting harder and harder to find.
Why not Conclave Tribunal? – Unfortunately, that card doesn’t really fit with this deck. Since it costs four mana, it will often keep creatures from attacking on turn three or four, when you really want to be either casting anthems and beating face, or convoking out a Venerated Loxodon. You’re also not really in the market for a removal spell most of the time.
Why not Faerie Guidemother/Healer’s Hawk? – This is the decision that makes me think Hoshi Yuki is a genius. Previous iterations of Mono White aggro have included a bit of a flying sub-theme. Why cut it? There are several reasons:
- These cards offer no insulation against removal, something which this deck is very interested in.
- The deck is designed to go wide around blockers, so flying doesn’t matter that much: if they have big blockers, they’re going to just eat your similarly-sized ground creatures anyway.
- Standard is in a weird place where reach creatures are everywhere. Four of the top 20 most played creatures (Elder Gargoth, Gemrazer, Stonecoil Serpent, and Shifting Ceratops) have reach.
- Hydroid Krasis and Shark Typhoon are two of the most played cards in the format, and both of them block flyers all day.
- The coolest reason: Brazen Borrower is the third most played creature in the format right now. The entire deck is built so Brazen Borrower can’t block anything: given that there are so many creatures that block flyers, and Borrower can ONLY block flyers, I actually think a creature having flying may be a downside in this deck.
A note on sideboarding: the sideboard is mostly a trap in this deck. Lean closer to not bringing anything in than bringing in too much. Cards like Glass Casket do nothing to advance your gameplan, and can slow down your draw significantly. If you ever find yourself sideboarding more than four cards, I would take a very close look at whether you really need the cards that you’re bringing in.
|Temur Reclamation||No sideboarding|
|Bant Ramp||+2 Gideon Blackblade||-2 Basri’s Solidarity|
|Mono Green Stompy||+4 Bounty Agent||-4 Glorious Anthem|
|Rakdos/Jund Sacrifice||+3 Devout Decree||-2 Basri’s Solidarity|
-1 Raise the Alarm
|Sultai Ramp||No sideboarding|
|Mono Red Aggro||+3 Devout Decree||-1 Unbreakable Formation|
-2 Basri’s Solidarity
(on the play)
|+2 Gideon Blackblade|
+1 Unbreakable Formation
|-3 Basri’s Solidarity|
(on the draw)
|+1 Unbreakable Formation||-1 Basri’s Solidarity|
|Mono Black Aggro||+3 Devout Decree||-3 Basri’s Solidarity|
|Simic Ramp||No sideboarding|
|Simic Flash||No sideboarding|
|Gruul Aggro||+3 Glass Casket||-1 Selfless Savior|
-2 Basri’s Solidarity